I want to let you in on a major mindset shift that has amplified my health and the ease with which I navigate life. Perhaps more than any other mindset shift I’ve made.
First, a little back-story:
I’ve spent a lot of time researching human physicality and the mind/body connection. I’ve spent a lot of time hearing and feeling what that’s like for other people (doing something like 1,500 massage/bodywork sessions over the last few years helps with that). I’ve spent a lot of time exploring what it means to create a more harmonious relationship with my body and to become better at honoring my needs and desires.
Through this, I’ve noticed a common perception floating about: that we should become better at connecting our mind and body, and that once we’ve mastered how to do this, everything will come in to alignment.
Our health will soar!
We’ll never be sick again!
Everything will make sense!
We’ll become enlightened little buddhas!
(Ok, maybe that’s just me. But can you relate?)
For a long time, despite all my best efforts, I felt like I was failing at this. I was sick and in pain more than I wasn’t, and there was a lot that felt like a mystery. What was I missing?
There were many factors at play, but I realized it was, in part, because I didn’t understand what it meant to connect my mind and body. I didn’t understand it because it already felt connected.
How could it not? I mean, last time I checked, my mind is IN my body. There is actually no physical disconnect.
The more I tried to strengthen my mind/body connection, the more frustrated I got, and the more I over-analyzed what I was feeling and how I should act.
It wasn’t until I began to really own my innate, felt, visceral experience of myself that the dots began to connect themselves.
My body is not a thing I can manually connect to my mind.
My mind is not a thing I can manually connect to my body.
They are already connected. They are one and the same.
YOU ARE YOUR BODY
While I see the value in learning to befriend your body, listen to it, and so forth (important to note that these are ways of thinking that have without a doubt benefited me, and still do sometimes), I’ve felt a special kind of value and richness in gaining a deeper understanding that I am ME. And ME consists of a body, which is an awesomely miraculous organism capable of movement, breath, thought, feeling, etc.
When I only conceive of my body as an outside entity to befriend and listen to, that inherently makes my mind the center of my Self. To me, this reinforces the notion that I am my thoughts/emotions, and my body/physical intelligence/sensation is the Other. Something a bit removed and foreign.
Mind/body connection? Not so much.
So, the more I have felt experiences of simply being ME, Helena the Whole Organism, the easier it is for me to:
:: make decisions about my health and well-being that are more in alignment with my needs (i.e. what food to eat and when, what type of movement class to take, making time for the rest I need)
:: make decisions (i.e. not so much over-analyzing or questioning myself)
:: see each situation I’m in (particularly the more challenging ones) as opportunities for growth and increased self-love and acceptance.
:: be more radically accepting of others’ bodies and experiences (comes in handy in my bodywork practice, and in all my relationships)
:: treat my body with more patience, kindness and understanding
So how does one have more felt experiences of this ME-ness, you might ask?
I can only speak from my experience, which is:
1) Begin to entertain the notion that you are your body with increased frequency and curiosity. Just try it on, and keep trying it on, and see what comes up. Literally say to yourself, “I am my body, I am me” and see what happens. Be open to whatever comes up, even if (particularly if!) it doesn’t make logical sense.
2) Learn more about how your body works. Really. Learn about its systems. Read a book or online article on brain science, anatomy, nutrition, or mind/body connection (you can check out my last two newsletters for book recommendations, which are, The Brain that Changes Itself and When the Body Says No).
3) Explore movement practices that challenge you to connect to your body’s impulses, such as Contact Improv, Gaga Movement Language, 5 Rhythms or Ecstatic Dance. Or explore a somatic practice like Feldenkrais. Or have more solo improv movement breaks in your bedroom/kitchen/whatever. I’m not suggesting you ditch the gym, yoga, Pilates, or anything that that you enjoy. But making time and space to explore what your body wants to do and what feels good (instead of following an instructor or set regimen) can help you get more in tune with yourself and what you’re feeling and how you’d like to feel (and can reveal some exciting hidden potential!).
4) Receive more bodywork and treat it as a practice. Enter into it with the intention (at least partially) to have a felt experience of your YOU-ness. I love entering spaces of deep relaxation, even sleep, when receiving bodywork, and there’s great value in that. But it can also be a wonderful opportunity to stay with the experience, to really notice how things feel, what’s shifting, what comes up emotionally, where it’s easy to let go and where it’s more challenging, how your breathing changes, etc.
So there you have it. You are your body.
Part of my mission with these Gentle Nudges newsletters is to share some of my current thoughts on physicality and health, and to show you new lenses through which to view yourself and your health and well-being that I think might be enlightening, enhancing, and maybe even a little challenging.
As always, take what works/resonates, and leave the rest. Please post your comments, insights, and questions in the comments below. I’d love to hear them.
With love + connection,